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Posts from the ‘Family’ Category

Top Lessons Learned on this Journey

Sunset over Rocks

Inspiration is everywhere!

Top things I’ve learned since becoming Art At Dawn

1. Inspiration is everywhereEvery waking hour is fodder for my art.  Sometimes it trickles up from my memories and other times I know it the moment it occurs.

I felt that very keenly this summer when my family and I took that trip out West.  Inspiration enveloped me and penetrated all my senses.  Look for upcoming posts on how it has begun to influence my work.

2. Consistency is key– I’ve found that I’m most productive when I keep myself on a schedule and hold myself to self-imposed deadlines. The times I flounder are when my goals are unclear or vague.

As I wrote about it in this post, I have developed a weekly schedule that helps to keep me focused.  I feel lost the weeks that I skip it.

I wish I could say that all this consistency allows my creativity to flow abundantly.  Not so.  There are times that I have to force myself to keep at it.  The important thing, I’ve learned, is just to show up and keep stoking the fire.  If the fire goes out it takes a lot longer to start it up again and feel the warmth of its glowing embers which feeds my art.

3. Time is precious– There are only so many hours in the day, and only a portion of them can be used for my art.  The trick is to use the time I have to the best of my ability and not kick myself when I run out of it.  (The best way to estimate my time?  Take the amount I think it will require and double it!)

But there is another side to the coin.  When I lose myself to my art, I often lose track of time as well.  I get in The Zone.  It is a great place to be in but requires the freedom of time, as well.

I've learned some tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

I’ve learned a few tricks, along the way, to maximize the supplies I have on hand.

4. Art supplies need not be expensive– that goes for studio furniture, too! Over the years I’ve amassed a lot of art supplies and learned some tricks on how to maximize the supplies I have lying around the house.

That goes for studio equipment and furniture, too.  I’ve also found some great deals at consignment stores and Craigslist, and am always looking out for discounted items to supplement my studio wishlist.

5. My talents are valid– It’s easy, in this field, to look around at my highly talented peers and convince myself that I don’t possess the skills and creativity that they have.  But I can’t do that to myself.  I can’t discount the feelings of excitement and happiness that often overwhelm me while creating a drawing or painting.

If I am passionate about my art and business I need to trust that others will see it and want what I have to offer.  (The trick is getting it out there where they can see it, too!)

6. Feel the fear and do it anyway– At times I am unsure of myself; where I am going with my art, and what I am doing.  I must allow myself to experience those feelings but then forge ahead. What other choice do I have? Giving up is not an option!

Sometimes I feel fearful when I am in a new situation or approaching someone about my art. I’ve found that what helps ease my anxiety is to think to myself, What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps I‘ll get rejected or feel out of my element, but the world will still spin and life will go on. So I swallow my pride and keep going- because I must!


I am so thankful to the friends and family who have encouraged and supported me along this journey.

7. Make time for family and friends– It is so easy to lose sight of the things that matter, if I allow it, especially if I’m wrapped up in a big project or preparing for a show.  I’ve learned that I constantly need to take a step back and look around me.  I need to take in the big picture and remember what my core values are.

I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to be using my God-given talents, but I cannot forget those who encouraged and helped me along the way.  I am so grateful to them, and I never want to forget to be thankful!

8. There is an answer out there for everything– I’ve had to forge many new streams in creating my business. I’ve had to find resources and learn to navigate them. Sometimes I’ve even had to learn new skills by watching tutorials or taking an online class.

I may have to dig for it, but the answers are out there. Thank God for Google!

9. Make a decision and stick with it–   This has not been an easy lesson to learn. Everywhere I turn there are decisions to make, and it can get overwhelming.  From what kind of art I should do, to where I should show it; decisions about what my art and business is about, and how I should run it.  Only I can decide and stand my ground- otherwise it would all get washed away in the current.

But then there are times when something doesn’t work and I need to let it go. That’s not an easy decision, either, but a necessary one to keep developing my art and business.

10. Prioritize– It’s remarkable how long its taken me to figure this out. There are so many things that need my attention and if I don’t prioritize, I wind up taking little nips but never finishing anything.

I’ve learned to choose 2-3 things each day that need to get done and then fill in with everything else. Often, I find that it’s better to get the more dreaded things out of the way first, as well. (ie: book-keeping!)

11. Make Connections– It can be hard to get myself out there and approach strangers- even if it’s in the name of my art.  I literally have to push myself to do it.  But 9 times out of 10, the people on the other end are friendly and helpful, and have led to more connections. These contacts have been invaluable and make it easier to go out and do it again.


Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

12. Don’t be afraid to fail– Not that I set out to make mistakes, but they happen anyway.  It would be easy to curl up and have a pity party every time they occur.  But I can’t.  Every failed attempt becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.

So bring it on!!

Do any of these lessons resonate with you?  What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your own business and/or creative pursuits?

Having a Learning and Growing Week!

Food, Glorious Food

Fruit in a bowl

It has been awhile since I’ve written about food- ironic because I think about it all the time!

A good portion of every day is spent daydreaming of food, trying not to eat between meals, (giving up and eating anyway), mulling over what I’m going to make for dinner, fantacizing about what I’m going to eat after dinner, salivating over what my husband is going to grill on the weekend, what I food I need to buy, what food I forgot to buy, etc., etc…

Want to hear some more random thoughts about food?

  • My families’ favorite foods?  Popcorn, Cheese, Tacos, and S’mores from the grill.
  • Every Saturday morning is Cinnamon Roll Saturday!– our treat for the end of a long week!
  • Have I mentioned that my husband is a great cook?  He usually cooks on the weekends.  From early Spring to late Fall this involves either grilling or smoking meat on one of his 3 grills.  He is masterful at it!

    Grocery List on envelope

    My weekly shopping list and proposed list of meals.

  • I write my weekly shopping list on the backs of blank envelopes from junk mail before tossing them into the recycling bin.  On the right side I write the meals that I propose and on the left side is the food I need to buy based on those meals.  Inside go coupons, if I manage to cut out any.
  • My weekly shopping list is based on my weekly planner that I create every Sunday.  In a nutshell, I take down our family calendar and transcribe it into my weekly planner.  From there I can see what activities we have planned and try to work out my dinners accordingly.  It’s not an easy job!

    Tried and True Recipes

    My tattered binder stuffed with recipes I’ve torn out of magazines and newspapers.

  • I have a collection of cookbooks, but the one I use the most is the one I created! It’s a binder labeled Tried and True Recipes, crammed full of recipes I’ve ripped out of newspapers and magazines over the years.
  • My best advice for meal-time success- preparation.  Often I’ll cut up veggies ahead of time, make rice right before we head off to an activity and leave it to warm on the stove (with burner turned off- it can stay warm for about an hour!), or create a meal in the crockpot, if it’s a particularly hectic day.

Why do I think about food so much?  Because meal-time is important to our family and sitting at the table for dinner together is one of our priorities.  I work my tail off to make it happen- but it’s worth it!

Here’s one of my go-to recipes from my Tried and True binder, cut out from a newspaper many years ago.  It’s Cashew Chicken that rivals take-out from a Chinese Restaurant:

Plate of Chinese Chicken and fruit

Cashew Chicken that rivals Chinese takeout!

Cashew Chicken

2 tbs. oyster sauce (found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)

2 tbs. soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

2 tbs. rice wine vinegar

2 tbs. sesame oil

2 tbs. vegetable oil

1 Ib. boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

2 green bell peppers, cut into chunks

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 cup unsalted cashews

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, rice wine, and sesame oil.

In a large, deep skillet or wok over medium-high, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering.  Add the chicken and stir-fry until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Add the green peppers, onion, and ginger.  Stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the onion is translucent, 5-6 minutes.

Stir in the sauce and the cashews, thoroughly coating all the ingredients.

Serves 6

Do you have any tips for how you plan meals or prepare food in your busy schedule?  I’d love to hear them!

Have a Delectable Week!

What do you want to be..?

My siblings and I

Hanging out with my siblings circa 1980

My daughter and I had a long conversation the other day about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Her answer – a vet, singer, actor, fashion designer, and inventor.  You go, girl!

I was very fortunate that my parents never pushed me in any one direction.  They let me figure it out on my own and encouraged all my interests.

So what did I want to be?

Once, I contemplated being a nun (for an entire 3 hours- then realized I just couldn’t do it!).  Then for a long time, since I was a ferocious bookworm, I wanted to be a librarian.

Girl reading with a run in her hose.

Very characteristic- My nose in book and a run in my hose!

But even before I discovered I had any talent, I wanted to be an artist.

What I didn’t want to be?  A teacher.  For 2 reasons- filmstrips and vomit.  (The latter is the reason I didn’t want to be a doctor, either!)  This makes me sound ancient- but when I was growing up there weren’t DVDs or even VCRs- just these stupid strips of film on a roll that every single teacher seemed to struggle with while winding onto the projectors.  It looked like torture!

An artist- that, in my mind, equalled unbridled freedom.  I obviously wasn’t one to seek wealth in a profession.  Even then I knew that the key to success was happiness.  (Though I must admit that now, as I grapple with how to make a living in my profession, I sometimes wonder why I hadn’t chosen to do something with a few more dollar signs attached to it!)

It wasn’t until middle school, however, that I discovered I had any talent for art beyond just liking to do it.

My middle school art teacher, a man I don’t remember having much affinity for and was even a little afraid of, encouraged my mom to enroll me in a summer art program.  He must have seen some spark of talent, though I feel my work was rather average up to that point.

That class shook me awake. It was based on drawing from life through field trips to various locations- the zoo, a pretty row of houses, the art museum- and suddenly I discovered that I had a way of seeing things and an ability to draw what I saw on paper.

I had access to a language not everyone knew how to speak, and it made me feel special.

Trying to look cool but feeling pretty awkward

I was in an awkward stage for what seemed like a very long time! (Check out that awful asymmetrical haircut!)

Up to that point, I was somewhat lost.  I was the oldest of 4 kids and my parents were divorced.  We lived with my mother who struggled to make ends meet, though always made sure we had what we needed.  I was very shy and always had my nose in a book with wild short, curly hair- and for awhile I had braces and cheap plastic glasses.

I went through a very awkward stage for what seemed like a very long time.

But art became my escape pod.

At the age of 16 my mother remarried and we moved from Wisconsin to Virginia.  Talk about culture shock!  Again, art came to the rescue.  I became involved in drama, choir, and art- even managing to win a few awards and scholarships.

Winning an award for a drawing

Winning a few awards and scholarships led me to seek art as a profession

When it came time to choose my college, it was a no brainer.  I wanted to find a program that allowed me to create art to my heart’s content.

I chose The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) without blinking an eye or even touring the campus. (a visit from representatives from the college when I was a Sophomore still in Wisconsin made that much of an impression on me!)

Fast forward 25 years- I married a boy that I met on an adjoining campus after my freshman year.  (He was a graduate student at Case Western Reserve U.)  We were married 10 days after I graduated from CIA and moved to London two weeks afterwards so he could pursue a Post-Doctorate position there.  I’ve been following him ever since to Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and finally, back here in Ohio.  Along the way, we’ve had 3 beautiful kids.

For awhile I was a freelance illustrator (the major I ultimately chose at CIA), then became an art teacher. (Thankfully filmstrips became extinct and no one has yet to vomit in my class!)  When we moved back to Ohio after my youngest daughter was born, I chose to put aside my art to concentrate on raising my family.

My 3 kids and santa.

I’ll never regret taking time out to raise my 3 fantastic kids!

But one day, as my youngest was getting older and about to enter school, I revisited that question:  What do you want to be when you grow up?  I had what can be called a come to Jesus moment.  I realized I had to get back to the art that I once had such a passion for, and I had to do it my way.

The question was, What is my way? Good question!  Its still something I’m seeking but this (arms held wide) is the result.  I’m doing it!

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me to answer that question- my husband for his endless support and love, my family, Kelly Dahl who became my life coach to get me started creating goals and seeing them through, and all my wonderful friends- You, who continue to encourage and support me on this quest.

Thank you!  May you have a glorious week towards realizing your own goals and desires!

A Summer of Discoveries

Sunset over Rocks

Some say Fall or Spring is their favorite season (and a few even claim Winter!).  As for me, Summer is where my heart belongs.

I seem to feel much more alive and open in the summer- almost like a desert flower that blooms after the rainy season when all the conditions are ripe.  I feel more relaxed and exposed to experiences and discoveries that come my way.

So what have you discovered this summer?  I’m glad you asked!

1. People are fascinating.

I’m sure this is something I’ve already known, but its really begun to emerge these past few months.  I’ve bumped into a few extremely intriguing people lately and its made me hunger for more encounters like them.

I met a woman on my trip out West who was trying to climb the highest peak in every state. Recently, a fellow artist who photographs my work explained how he began an art exchange with a group in Japan.

Dartboard against orange wall

I met a fascinating woman at a local Irish Festival last weekend who shared her love of playing darts and how she met her husband at a competition.

I now realize why we were always one of the last families to leave after mass on Sundays, when my mother began talking to other parishioners. I have become one of those people. My children outwardly groan when they see me bump into a friend at a grocery store.

Sorry kids- people are just too fascinating. Hopefully you’ll understand someday!

2. Let go of expectations.

August has rounded the corner and I have only achieved a fraction of the projects I had planned for the summer.  Rather then let this eat away at me, I’ve come to a few realizations.

Getting ready to paint

The tarps are up and the hardware is down, yet I still haven’t painted the boys’ rooms.   Upate- Painting has begun!

I’ve realized that the reason things haven’t been achieved is that I’ve had a fun summer with the family.  We’ve swum, bowled, vacationed, visited local fairs and festivals, and eaten at open air restaurants.  We’ve done summer!

Isn’t that better then crossing all the to-dos off my list and missing out on all the fun?

But it hasn’t stopped me from feeling guilt for not crossing off those to-dos.  Next summer I think I’ll make a bucket list instead of a to-do list so that anything I accomplish will be a bonus!

3. Keep the creative gates open.

I’m in the post-vacation, pre-school mode and have had little time to be creative.  But this summer I have a lifeline.

I began a new 365 project in June. I vowed to create a drawing every day based on a song I was listening to. Have I succeeded? Not quite, but often enough so that it has become something I either do or at least think about doing every single day.

Drawing in my 365 music sketchbook

A drawing in my daily 365 sketchbook based on the song, Happy.

My paints will have to wait just a little while longer.  But at least I have my sketchbook to carry me through!

4. Connect.

I’m so glad I was able to see my sister (actually, my half sister) in Colorado while were we were vacationing out west. We actually hadn’t seen each other since our Dad died 3 ½ years ago! But It was a hurdle to make it happen. We had to dodge a few miscommunications and juggle our schedules.

Family gathering in restaurant

My sister’s 4 kids and my 3 made for a very rowdy reunion, but it was fun to reconnect!

Those 2 hours at the pizza parlor (driving the poor waitresses crazy with our combined 7 loud and rambunctious kids!) made a world of difference to our distant relationship. We were able to reconnect.

Just last weekend my brother and his family came up for a last minute visit. Again, connections were strengthened as the cousins romped around the backyard and the grown-ups caught up at the dining room table.

Family is a blessing. There are many differences among us, but blood is a powerful bonding agent!

5. Deadlines make things happen.

This seems counter-intuitive to letting go of expectations, but some things needed to get done this summer and deadlines made it happen.

In fact, the reason you’re able to read a new blog post from me just about every week (except when I snuck off on vacation!) isn’t because I always feel inspired to write. I wish it were the case and I’m sorry to say that it’s not! It is because I have a self-imposed deadline.

The same goes for just about everything else that I’ve managed to achieve this summer. I have good intentions, but unless I give myself a deadline, it doesn’t get done. It’s a fine line- relaxing expectations yet creating deadlines. I guess it all boils down to priorities.

A list of things to do on a computer

I recently discovered the program, Todoist, and love it’s versatility and simple format.


There are only a few weeks left before the kids go back to school and the summer season ends, at least in our household. My plan is to make the best of the time we have left and enjoy it to the last drop.

How about you? What discoveries have you made this summer?

Have an enchanting week and enjoy your summer while it’s still here!


Before I Hit The Road

Down the roadSometime in the next month, we will be leaving for our summer vacation.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy as to where and when, but, don’t fret, I’ll fill you in on some of the highlights soon afterwards!

What I can tell you is that it takes an abundance of preparation and organization to make it happen.

This is something, I must admit, that I actually enjoy doing.

What I hate?  Coming home, unpacking, and the mounds of laundry that await me afterwards!

But let me push those unpleasant thoughts aside and concentrate what is required to get the 5 of us ready for another exciting vacation…

1. Projecting

Before I pull out our suitcases, I first must slip on my thinking cap.   I always try to project ahead to the vacation location and our plans there.  What will the temperature be like?  Will we need good clothes for a special occasion? Will we need hiking shoes or beach clothes?  Will we be staying at hotels with toiletries provided or will we need to bring some of our own?

Only then am I ready for #2:

2. Lists

There are 2 lists that I create,  to-pack and to-do.  In the past, I’ve written them out by hand then tossed them out- but last year I had the foresight to type it up on my computer.  Turns out that I’m a repetitive creature and many of the items have remained the same, regardless of trip locale!

My to-pack list goes through each family member, lists the amount of clothing and what kind (pjs, jackets, undies, etc.), and then general necessities such as a camera, sunscreen, medicine, etc…  With 5 people to pack for, this list is invaluable!

My to-do list is anything and everything that needs to get done before we leave.  Hold mail and newspaper are always the #1 item.  There’s also getting cash, purchasing travel toiletries, sending last minute emails, etc., etc…

A collection of knickknacks from past travels line the windowsill in our kitchen.

A collection of knickknacks from past travels line the windowsill in our kitchen.


3. Kid’s Bags

These are essential to our kids’ happiness and saves my husband and I from schlepping all the kid’s crap ourselves!  Each person is in charge of a backpack (or purse/laptop case, for the adults) that contains all the gizmos, books, and activities required to keep them occupied.  In addition, I’ll often slip in a few little surprises (activity books and magazines) and snacks to get them through long flights or car rides.

4. CDs

A few years ago I learned how to create custom CDs, and these have also become a tradition for long car rides.  Each kid is allowed to create a playlist of 15-20 songs from our music library and/or downloaded from iTunes, then I burn them onto a disc.  It is interesting to witness their developing tastes in music and discover their favorite songs.  Often, one tune becomes the theme song for our vacation (as in the case of California Love by Dr. Dre for a trip out west a few summers ago!).

5. Food

I’ve already mentioned snacks in the backpacks.  If we are taking a long car ride, I’ll often pack a cooler of drinks (along with extras to throw in later), plenty of non-perishable snacks, and some dried cereal and bagels for breakfast- so that we don’t have to stop as often.  A special mention is gum, especially helpful on plane trips for popping ears.  Its also been used to ease fatigue for the drivers, and nausea for passengers.  We are lucky that our kids don’t get carsick very often, but one can never be too prepared!

6. Research

This goes along somewhat with projecting – learning a little about where we’ll be headed.  Back in the dark ages that would primarily be through books.  Nowadays, Google is my best friend.  Social Media (aka: asking friends) also helps, along with Yelp and TripAdvisor.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like to keep many of these recommendations in a folder as reference for when we’re there. (along with hotel confirmations, telephone numbers, exchange rates, etc.)

quote by Hans Christian Anderson7. What Have I Missed?

I have learned that after we return from a trip, my brain is in a fog and it takes about a week to resume normal activity.  Therefore, I try to project ahead to the days after we get home and prepare as much as possible.  This year, my daughter’s birthday arrives shortly after we return, so I’ll need to start planning now to ensure that she has a party with all the fix in’s when the time comes!

If I can’t prepare beforehand, sometimes I’ll put alerts on my phone for important things I need to remember, or to shake me into action. (i.e.: bills that are due, sport’s sign-ups, etc.)

One could get tired just looking at all the prep work that goes into getting a family out of town and ask, Is it worth it?  

My answer? A resounding YES!  The more I do now, the better able I am to actually relax when we get there and disconnect for awhile.  Something we all need to do from time to time.

Are there any special rituals you do as you prepare to hit the road?  I’d love to hear about them!

Have a Fabulous Week!


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